As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it
I. HIS TENDER SYMPATHY WITH HUMAN SORROW, The grief which now overwhelmed the Saviour was (as we shall see) very largely due to his sense of its past and its approaching guilt. But it was also due, in part, to his foreknowledge of the sufferings its inhabitants must endure. An intense sympathy with human woe was and is a very large element in the character and life of Jesus Christ.
1. It was his compassion for our race that brought him from above - that we by his poverty might become rich.
2. It was this which, more than anything else, accounts for the miracles he wrought. He could not see the blind, and the lame, and the fever-stricken, and the leprous without tendering them the restoring grace it was in his power to bestow. He could not see mourning parents and weeping sisters without healing the heart-wounds he was able to cure.
3. It was this which drew to himself the confidence and affection of loving hearts. It was no wonder that pitiful women and tender-hearted children, and men whose hearts were unhardened by the world, were drawn in trust and love to the responsive Son of man, whose step was always stopped by a human cry, to whose compassion no stricken man or woman ever appealed in vain.
4. It is this feature of his character which makes him so dear to us now as our Divine Friend. For in this world, where sorrow treads so fast on the heels of joy, and where human comforters so often fail us, of what priceless value is it to have in that Everlasting One, who is the Ever-present One, a Friend who is "touched" with our griefs, and who still carries our sorrows by the power of his sympathy!
(1) Let us thank God that we have such a Friend in him; and
(2) let us resolve before God that such a friend will we seek and strive to be.
II. HIS PROFOUND REGRET FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN THE WRONG. With what eyes do we look upon human sin when we see it at its worst? How are we affected by the sight of a drunkard, of a thief, of a foul-mouthed and fallen woman? Are we filled with contempt? Many bad things are indeed contemptible; but there is a view to be taken which is worthier and more Christ-like than that; a view which is more humane and more Divine - a feeling of profound pitifulness and sorrowful regret. It was this which filled the heart of Christ when he looked upon Jerusalem, and that called forth his tearful lamentation. Much was there about that city that might well move his righteous anger, that did call down his strong, unsparing indignation (Matthew 23.) - its spiritual arrogance, its religious egotism, its fearful pretentiousness, its deep-seated hypocrisy, its heartless cruelty, its whitewash of ceremony without with all its corruptness and selfishness within. But Jesus forebore to denounce; he stopped to weep. He was most powerfully affected by the thought that Jerusalem might have been so much to God and man, and was - what she was. Jesus Christ was not so much angered as he was saddened by the presence and the sight of sin. He might have withered it up in his wrath, but he rather wept over it in his pity. This is the Christian spirit to be cherished and to be manifested by ourselves. We must contemn the contemptible; but we rise to higher ground when we pity the erring because they are in error, when we mourn over the fallen because they are down so low, when we grieve for those who are afar off because they are astray from God and blessedness. But we must not only weep for those who are in the wrong because they are in the wrong. We must do our utmost to set them right. "How often" did Christ seek to gather those sons and daughters of Jerusalem under the wings of his love! How often and how earnestly should we seek to reclaim and to restore! - C.
Jesus wept. - The word is different from that used to express weeping in ver. 33; but this latter is used of our Lord inLuke 19:41; Hebrews 5:7): — It is a commonplace to speak of tears; would that it were a common practice to shed them. Whoever divided the New Testament into verses seems to have stopped in amazement at the text, making an entire verse of two words. There is not a shorter verse in the Bible nor a larger text. Christ wept thrice. The tears of the text are as a spring belonging to one house. hold; the tears over Jerusalem are as a river, belonging to a whole country; the tears on the cross (Hebrews 5:7) are as a sea belonging to all the world; and though, literally, these fall no more into our text than the spring, yet because the spring flows into the river and the river into the sea, and that wheresoever we find that Jesus wept we find our text, we shall look upon those heavenly eyes through this glass of His own tears in all these three lines. Christ's tears were —
I. HUMANE, as here. This being His greatest miracle, and declaring His Divinity, He would declare that He was man too.
1. They were not distrustful inordinate tears. Christ might go further than any other man, both because He had no original sin within to drive Him, and no inordinate love without to draw Him when His affections were moved. Christ goes as far as a passionate deprecation in the passion, but all these passions were sanctified in the root by full submission to God's pleasure. And here Christ's affections were vehemently stirred (ver. 33); but as in a clean glass if water be troubled it may conceive a little light froth, yet it contracts no foulness, the affections of Christ were moved but so as to contract no inordinateness. But then every Christian is not a Christ, and He who would fast forty days as Christ did might starve.
2. But Christ came nearer to excess than to senselessness. Inordinateness may make men like beasts, but absence of affection makes them like stones. St. Peter tells us that men will become lovers of themselves, which is bad enough, but he casts another sin lower — to be without natural affections. The Jews argued that saw Christ weep, "Behold how He loved him." Without outward declarations who can conclude inward love? Who then needs to be ashamed of weeping? As they proceeded from natural affection, Christ's were tears of imitation. And when God shall come to that last act in the glorifying of man — wiping all tears from his eyes — what shall He have to do with that eye that never wept?
3. Christ wept out of a natural tenderness in general; now out of a particular occasion — Lazarus was dead. A good man is not the worse for dying, because he is established in a better world: but yet when he is gone out of this he is none of us, is no longer a man. It is not the soul, but the union of the soul that makes the man. A man has a natural loathness to lose his friend though God take him. Lazarus's sisters believed his soul to be in a good estate, and that his body would be raised, yet they wept. Here in this world we lack those who are gone: we know they shall never come to us, and we shall not know them again till we join them.
4. Christ wept though He knew Lazarus was to be restored. He would do a great miracle for him as He was a mighty God; but He would weep for him as He was a good-natured man. It is no very charitable disposition if I give all at my death to others, and keep all my life to myself. I may mean to feast a man at Christmas, and that man may starve before in Lent. Jesus would not give this family whom He loved occasion of suspicion that He neglected them; and therefore though He came not presently to His great work, He left them not comfortless by the way.
II. PROPHETICAL — over Jerusalem. His former tears had the spirit of prophecy in them, for He foresaw how little the Jews would make of the miracle. His prophetical tears were humane too, they rise from good affections to that people.
1. He wept in the midst of the acclamations of the people. In the best times there is ever just occasion of fear of worse, and so of tears. Every man is but a sponge. Whether God lay His left hand of adversity or His right hand of prosperity the sponge shall weep. Jesus wept when all went well with Him to show the slipperiness of worldly happiness.
2. He wept in denouncing judgments to show with how ill a will He inflicted them, and that the Jews had drawn them on themselves (Isaiah 16:9). If they were only from His absolute decree, without any respect to their sins, could He be displeased with His own act? Would God ask that question, "Why will ye die?" etc., if He lay open to the answer, "Because Thou hast killed us"?
3. He wept when He came near the city: not till then. If we will not come near the miseries of our brethren we will never weep over them. It was when Christ Himself, not when His disciples, who could do Jerusalem no good, took knowledge of it. It was not when those judgments drew near; yet Christ did not ease Himself on account of their remoteness, but lamented future calamities.
III. PONTIFICAL — accompanying His sacrifice. These were expressed by that inestimable weight, the sins of all the world. And if Christ looking on Peter made him weep, shall not His looking on us here with such tears make us weep.
1. I am far from concluding all to be impenitent who do not actually shed tears. There are constitutions that do not afford them. And yet the worst epithet that the best poet could fix on Pluto himself was "a person that could not weep." But to weep for other things and not for sin, this is a sponge dried into a pumice stone. Though there be good tears and bad tears, yet all have this degree of good in them that they argue a tender heart; and the Holy Ghost loves to work in wax not in marble. God made a firmament which He called heaven after it had divided the waters: after we have distinguished our tears worldly from heavenly then is there a firmament established in us, and a heaven opened to us.
2. I might stand long upon the manifold benefits of godly tears, but I contract all into this, which is all — godly sorrow is joy.
(J. Donne, D. D.)
I. TEARS OF SYMPATHY. Three thoughts are suggested.
1. It is not sinful to weep under afflictions.
2. The mourner may always count on the sympathy of Jesus. Jesus thought not of these sisters alone. There sounded in His ears the dirge of the ocean of human misery. The weeping of Mary and Martha was but the holding of the shell to His ears. That tear of love is a legacy to every Christian.
3. When our friends are mourning we should weep with them. The truest tenderness is that which distils in tears. When the heart feels most keenly, the tongue refuses to do its bidding, but the tear expresses all. The tear is never misunderstood.
II. TEARS OF COMPASSION (Luke 19:41). He was about to enter Jerusalem over Mount of Olives. Before His vision, instead of the fair scene, He saw the legions of Rome, etc. "Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem," etc. It was baffled affection.
1. Observe the privileges which were granted the Jews and neglected. Who shall say what glory had been Jerusalem's had she heard the prophets and Jesus? All hearers of the Word have privileges and visitations.
2. Observe the sorrow of Jesus for the lost. He saw. that the chance to save was past forever. He abandoned the effort in tears.
III. TEARS OF PERSONAL SUFFERING (Hebrews 5:7). The tears Paul speaks of very probably referred to Gethsemane.
1. Think not because you suffer that you are not chosen. As Christ was made perfect in His work, through His suffering, so are we thus to be led.
2. Nor are we to think that we are not Christians because we feel weak. Tears are liquid emotion pressed from the heart. It is not murmuring in you to feel the sting of suffering. Yet the undercurrent must always be, "Thy will be done." Patience is not apathy. Rest sure of this, the prayer cable is not broken. The Gethsemane angel has gone on many a strengthening mission since that day in Gethsemane.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)I. HE WEPT FROM VERY SYMPATHY WITH THE GRIEF OF OTHERS. It is of the nature of compassion to "rejoice with those," etc. It is so with men, and God tells us that He is compassionate. We do not well know what this means, for how can God rejoice or grieve? He is hid from us; but it is the very sight of sympathy that comforts the sufferer. When Christ took flesh, then, He showed us the Godhead in a new manifestation. Let us not say that His tears here are man's love overcome by natural feeling. It is the love of God, condescending to appear as we are capable of receiving it, in the form of human nature.
II. HE WEPT AT THE VICTORY OF DEATH. Here was the Creator seeing the issue of His own handiwork. Would He not revert to the hour of Creation when He saw that all was very good, and contrast man as He was made. innocent and immortal, and man as the devil had made him, full of the poison of sin and the breath of the grave? Why was it allowed? He would not say. What He has done for all believers, revealing His atoning death, but not explaining it, this He did for the sisters also, proceeding to the grave in silence, to raise their brother while they complained that he had been allowed to die.
III. HE WEPT AT HIS OWN IMPENDING DOOM. Joseph could bring joy to his brethren at no sacrifice of his own. The disciples would have dissuaded Christ from going into Judaea lest the Jews should kill Him. The apprehension was fulfilled. The fame of the miracle was the immediate course of His seizure. He saw the whole prospect — Lazarus raised, the supper, joy on all sides, many honouring Him, the triumphal entry, the Greeks earnest to see Him, the Pharisees plotting, Judas betraying, His friends deserting, the cross receiving. He felt that He was descending into the grave which Lazarus had left.
(Cardinal Newman.)I. CAUSES OF CHRIST'S SORROW.
1. The possession of a soul. When we speak of the Deity joined to humanity we do not mean to a body, but to manhood, body and soul. With a body only Jesus might have wept for hunger, but not for sorrow. That is the property not of Deity or body, but of soul. The humanity of Christ was perfect.
2. The spectacle of human sorrow.(1) Death of a friend (ver 36). Mysterious! Jesus knew that He could raise him. This is partly intelligible. Conceptions strongly presented produce effects like reality, e.g., we wake dreaming, our eyes suffused with tears — know it is a dream, yet tears flow on. Conception of a parent's death. Solemn impression produced by the mock funeral of Charles V. The sadness of Jesus for His friend is repeated in us all. Somehow we twine our hearts round those we love as if forever. Death and they are not thought of in connection. He die!(2) Sorrow of His two friends. Their characters were diverse: two links bound them together: love to Lazarus, attachment to the Redeemer. Now one link was gone. His loss was not an isolated fact. The family was broken up; the sun of the system gone; the keystone of the arch removed, and the stones lose their cohesion. For the two minds held together only at points of contact. They could not understand one another's different modes of feeling: Martha complains of Mary. Lazarus gave them a common tie. That removed the points of repulsion would daily become more sharp. Over the breaking up of a family Jesus wept. And this is what makes death sad.
II. CHARACTER OF CHRIST'S SORROW: Spirit in which Jesus saw this death.
1. Calmly. "Lazarus sleepeth" in the world of repose where all is placid. Struggling men have tried to forget this restless world, and slumber like a babe, tired at heart. Lazarus to his Divine friend's imagination lies calm. The long day's work is done, the hands are folded. Friends are gathered to praise, enemies to slander, but make no impression on his ear. Conscious he is, but not of earthly noise. But "he sleeps well."
2. Sadly. Hence, observe —(1) Permitted sorrow. Great nature is wiser than we. We recommend weeping, or prate about submission, or say all must die: Nature, God, says, "Let nature rule to weep or not."(2) That grief is no distrust of God — no selfishness. Sorrow is but love without its object.
3. Hopefully — "I go," etc. (ver. 11). "Thy brother" (ver. 23).
4. In reserve. On the first announcement Jesus speaks not a word. When He met the mourners He offered no commonplace consolation. He is less anxious to exhibit feeling than to soothe. But nature had her way at last. Yet even then by act more than word the Jews inferred His love, There is the reserve of nature and the reserve of grace. We have our own English reserve. We respect grief when it does not make an exhibition. An Englishman is ashamed of his good feelings as much as of his bad. All this is neither good nor bad: it is nature. But let it be sanctified and pass into Christian delicacy. Application. In this there is consolation: but consolation is not the privilege of all sorrow. Christ is at Lazarus's grave, because Christ had been at the sisters' home, sanctifying their joys, and their very meals. They had anchored on the rock in sunshine, and in the storm the ship held to her moorings. He who has lived with Christ will find Christ near in death, and will find himself that it is not so difficult to die.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
1. Different from Himself at other times.
2. Very unlike the Jews who came to comfort the two sisters, and —
3. unlike the sisters themselves. Jesus' tears imply —
I. THE RELATION BETWEEN THE BODY AND THE MIND (Lamentations 3:51). Tears are natural. The relation existing between matter and mind is inexplicable. Yet it exists. From this fact we can reason to the relation existing between God and the material universe.
II. THE RELATION BETWEEN THE HUMAN AND THE DIVINE. Here we have a proof of His humanity. What more human than weeping? Following this manifestation of humanity is the manifestation of divinity. We should guard against the old errors concerning the constitution of Christ's person; for they appear from age to age under new forms:
1. Arianism — denying His proper Divinity.
2. Appolinarianism — denying His proper humanity.
3. Nestorianism — dual personality.
4. Eutychianism — confounding the two natures in His person.
III. THE RELATION BETWEEN CHRIST AS MEDIATOR AND HUMANITY, IN GENERAL, IN ITS MISERY, AND HIS PEOPLE, IN PARTICULAR, IN THEIR AFFLICTIONS.
1. The question, why He wept? is here answered.(1) He was sorrowful because of the misery caused by sin. As Jerusalem was before His eyes when He wept over it, so here humanity in its sin and all its misery passed in review before His face.(2) His weeping was a manifestation of His sympathy. No comparison between His consoling, comforting tears and those of the Jews.
2. The intercessory work of Christ as our High Priest in heaven is here implied. He is the same there as when here upon earth (Hebrews 13:8). Has the same heart beating with ours. He is our sympathizing Friend and Brother there. APPLICATION:
1. Have you wept on account of your sins? They have caused, and are still causing, Jesus to weep.
2. Do you realise Christ's friendship for you?
3. Let us learn from His example to sympathise with the sorrows of our fellow men.
(T. E. Hughes.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
I. THE INSTINCT. The word has gone through one process since it left its root "to suffer," which root does not mean suffering in our common sense, but "being affected." So sympathy does not mean fellow suffering, but community of affection. It may be —(1) A community of congruity. There is sympathy between two persons where there is such a likeness of disposition that they are mutually drawn to each other.(2) A community of contagion. You sympathize with a person when in some particular sorrow or joy you share the feeling arising out of circumstances not your own.
1. As a community of disposition, sympathy is —(1) The spring of all love. We see in the soul which looks through those eyes, its windows, the very counterpart and complement of our own. Even beauty acts through sympathy. It is not the flesh, grace, colour, etc., but the idea or promise of beautiful qualities which wins the heart. Another may be more comely, but we are not attracted because we read not the disposition which ours craves. We blame ourselves for not loving. Why do we not love? For the lack of that sympathy of congruity represented by the word "liking."(2) The inspiration of eloquence. What is there in that insignificant figure, uncomely countenance, unmusical voice which nevertheless sways multitudes as the orator lists. An empire has hung in suspense while one man has talked to 10,000. Why? Because of the charm of sympathy.(3) The secret of power in poetry and fiction. What is it which draws tears from eyes which know they are Witnessing imaginary sorrows? It is the skill with which genius draws upon the resources of human feeling. The moment the tragical passes into the artificial, the tear dries of itself.(4) The explanation of all magnificent successes. A want of sympathy accounts for the failure of men possessed of every gift but one. You see it in oratory: there is learning, industry, etc., but the audience is unimpressed because there was no heart. You see it in action: there is education, character, opportunity, etc., but coldness of temperament chilled the touch of friendship.(5) This sympathy has its excesses. It is so charming and remunerative that some men are guilty of practising on good impulses, and become insincere, and destroy others by means of the soul's best and tenderest affections.
2. Sympathy of contagion, too, is an instinct. To feel is human; we call a man unnatural, unhuman who cannot pity. But some men feel without acting, and consequently feeling is deadened. Others keep away from them what will make them feel, and waste the instinct. To this kind of sympathy belong all those efforts by which we throw ourselves into another's life for benevolent influence. This alone renders possible an education which is worthy of the name, the teacher sharing personally the difficulties, games, weaknesses, etc., of the taught.
II. CHRIST SATISFYING THIS INSTINCT.
1. He presented Himself to us in one thrust, as possessing all that beauty which has a natural affinity to everything that is noble and true.(1) He appeals to the instinct in its form of likeness. We must be cautious here, a not confuse the ruined will, the original temple. Still there is no one who has no response in him to that which is lovely and of good report. The instinct finds not its rest here below. Some profess to be satisfied: they have what they want. They are happy — might it but last; were there no storms and eventual death. But for the rest care, toil, ill-health, bereavement have forbidden it, or they have not yet found the haven of sympathy. The first movement of such in hearing of Christ satisfying the wants of the soul is one of impatience: they want something substantial. What they really want is community of affection. There is offered to them a perfect love.(2) Christ guides and demands sympathy. He makes it religion, which is sympathy with God; "liking" the drawing of spirit to spirit by the magnet of a felt loveliness. "I drew them with cords," etc. Without this religion is a burden and bondage.
2. Christ satisfies the sympathy of contact. We might have thought that the Creator would shrink from the ugly thing into which sin has corrupted His handiwork. But He never heard the lepers cry without making it a reason for drawing nigh. Again and again He went to the bereaved, and it was to wake the dead; and this not officially, as though to say, "This proves Me the Christ." Jesus wept. There was no real peril or want with which He did not express sympathy. He loved the rich young man; He wept over Jerusalem with its unbelief and hypocrisy; He was in all points tempted, and so is able to sympathize with our infirmities. What He sympathized with was poor sin-spoilt humanity, and for that He died. Conclusion: What Christ did He bids us do not in the way of condescension, but as men touching to Him, not loving the sin, yet loving the sinner. Lonely people cease to be alone. "Rejoice with them that rejoice," etc.
(Dean Vaughan.)I. JESUS WEPT; FOR THERE WAS CAUSE WORTHY OF HIS TEARS. The finest, noblest race of God's creatures dismantled, sunk in death before Him, all across earth and time from the world's beginning. Tears, we know, show strongest in the strongest. When you see the strong man broken down beside his sick babe you cannot but feel there is a cause. Whatever else there may be in the man, you see that he has a heart, and that his heart is the deepest, is the Divine part of him. As the father's tears over his child testify the father's heart, so the tears of Jesus testify that He has a heart which beats with infinite love and tenderness toward us men. For we are His, and in a far more profound and intimate sense belong to Him, than children can to an earthly parent. And the relation into which the Lord Jesus has come with our humanity is closer and tenderer than that of earthly parent. We speak of Him as our Brother, our Elder Brother; but the truth is, Christ's relation to us is Father, Mother, Brother, Sister, Husband, Friend, all in One. But He knew — further — that a sadder thing than death and its miseries lay behind, even sin. This touched and affected Him most, that we were a fallen and dishonoured race, and therefore death had come upon us and overshadowed us. Why else should we die? The stars do not wax old and die, the heavens and the earth remain unto this day, though there is no soul or spirit in them. Why should the brightness of an immeasurably nobler and more exalted creature like man wax dim? Stars falling from heaven are nothing to souls falling from God. The one are but lights going out in God's house, the other the very children of the house perishing. Jesus wept then for the innermost death of all death, the fountain misery of all miseries But while in His Divine thought and sorrow He penetrated to the root and source of that evil and of all evil, the mighty attendant suffering awoke in Him the truest and deepest compassion and sympathy. He wept, then, with each one of us; for who has not been called to part with some beloved relative, parent, partner, companion, guide, or friend? With all sorrowing, desolate hearts and homes of the children of men He then took part. Again, the Lord Jesus felt how much the darkness and sorrows of death were intensified and aggravated by the state of ignorance and unbelief in which the world lay. How mournful to His spirit at that hour the realization of the way in which the vast bulk and majority of the human race enter the world, go through it, leave it 1 for He knew, better than any other that has been on earth, man's capability of higher things and of an endless life and blessedness. "Like sheep they are laid in the grave," says the writer of the 49th Psalm, What a picture! Like that abject, unthinking, and helpless animal, driven in flocks by awful forms, cruel powers, they can neither escape nor resist, to a narrow point and bound, where all is impenetrable darkness.
II. Let us consider "THE TEARS OF JESUS" AS REVEALING THE DIVINE HEART. Are we to believe that He out of whose heart have come the hearts of all true fathers and mothers, all the simple, pure affections of our common nature and kinship, of the family and the home; are we to believe, I say, that God has no heart? Some one may say, There is no doubt God can love and does love — infinitely; but can He sorrow? Now, my friend, I pray you, think what is sorrow but love wanting or losing its objects, its desire and satisfaction in its objects, and going forth earnestly in its grief to seek and regain them? Sorrow, suffering, is one of the grandest, noblest, most self-denying, and disinterested forms and capabilities of love, apart from which love could not exist, whether in nature or in name.
III. THE TEARS OF JESUS ARE THOSE OF A MIGHTY ONE HASTENING TO AVENGE AND DELIVER. They are not the tears of one whose pity and sympathy can only be thus expressed, but who has no power — whatever may be his willingness and desire — to help. The tears of Jesus are those of a hero over his native country and kingdom laid waste by an enemy whom he hastens to meet and avenge himself upon. There is hope, there is help for our world; Jesus Christ weeps over it, and He "will restore all things" of which we have been robbed and spoiled.
IV. HENCE WE LEARN OUR TRUE SOURCE OF COMFORT, HELP, AND RESTORATION. He who wept and bled and died for man has proved Himself to be our great Deliverer. Do we ever feel we can go anywhere else but to Him when sickness and death threaten and invade us and ours?
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